In 2010, John Kasich ran for Governor on essentially nothing more than Tea Party anger over “ObamaCare” and the roughly 400,000 jobs that were lost in Ohio during the Great Recession.  Four years later, John Kasich apparently plans on running for re-election on expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare and taking credit for the jobs largely created under Gov. Strickland’s policies.  It’s almost ironic. 

Here’s a fascinating quote from Kasich Administration Rob Nichols over the weekend in the Cincinnati Enquirer’s must-read story about the current intersection of the economy and politics in Ohio in the governor’s race:

“It’s what you did from the start to what you did to the end. That’s what Ohioans did with Strickland: They judged him over his term, and they voted him out,” Nichols said. “We never blamed him for the national recession, but what we did blame him for was his inability to do anything.”

Yes, it’s true that they got the 400,000 figure from calculating how many jobs were lost during the entire duration of Strickland’s term.  However, what Nichols conveniently omits is that the Great Recession accounted for essentially all of that number.  Not once did the Kasich campaign say Ohio was already bleeding jobs before the recession because, in reality, it wasn’t.  The Great Recession alone accounts for the 400,000 jobs lost figure.  It always did.

And Nichols knows he was lying.  How do I know Nichols was lying?  Rob Nichols meet Kasich campaign spokesman Rob Nichols in 2010:

The governor hasn’t taken "a single shred of responsibility" for the state’s job losses and has "mismanaged Ohio’s economy," Nichols said. "Ohio is worse off than its neighbors and will be slower to come out" of the recession, he added.

In 2010, the Kasich campaign very specifically attacked Governor Strickland over Ohio’s job losses saying he should take responsibility for those that were lost in the Great Recession and Kasich specifically promised that if voters dumped Strickland for him, he would get Ohio on a path of a quicker recovery.  Do not let them get away with their sudden goalpost moving.

What the Kasich campaign and Nichols said in 2010 turned out to be a lie.  The reason Nichols moved the goalpost over the weekend is he was forced to because everything he said about the economy in 2010 turned out to be wrong.  As the Cincinnati Enquirer story pointed out,  when the recession ended in 2009, Ohioans were, in fact, going back to work at a much faster rate than the rest of the nation, which is remarkable because even in the generally good economic times of 1996-2007, Ohio’s job growth had been largely smaller than the rest of the nation.  In other words, as soon as the recession ended in 2009, Ohioans were going back to work faster than the nation under Strickland even though job creation pre-recession in Ohio had long been smaller than the national rate.

During Governor Strickland’s term, Ohio went from having an unemployment rate above the national rate to one that was below the national rate for the first time since December 2002.  So, if Governor Kasich was to be judged on the standard he set for the campaign: that he would position Ohio to recover economically faster than it did under Strickland, he’s failing on multiple accounts.

Governor Kasich’s team has an odd obsession with Strickland.  They still can’t comprehend that he’s not running against Ted Strickland anymore and that his economic record during a national recovery will not be compared to how Ohio was doing during a global recession.  Most voters aren’t going to care how many jobs have been created in four years, especially if they jobs were created years ago and job creation has crawled to a halt since then.

But keep in mind something we said yesterday.  For the first six months of his term, Ohio was still under Gov. Strickland’s policies as his last budget didn’t end until the end of June 2011.  None of Kasich’s economic policies were in force until then.  Also keep in mind that the most draconian cuts in Kasich’s first budget hit in the second fiscal year that began on July 1, 2012, which is precisely when Ohio’s job creation sputtered to nearly a halt.

Even though those first six months account for just 20% (and shrinking) of Governor Kasich’s term, as we said yesterday, the final six months of the last Strickland budget account for 28.77% of all private sector job growth in Gov. Kasich’s term.  And the economy, especially when it comes to job creation, doesn’t immediately react to changes in policy.  So, Nichols is essentially saying that he expects voters to judge Kasich by the number of jobs that were being created while Ohio was still largely under the influence of Governor Strickland’s policies.  And Ohio’s job creation since Kasich took office has hardly been historic, Ohio’s created a third fewer jobs under Kasich than it did at this point in the second term of the Voinovich Administration.

Kasich also ran on Governor claiming that Governor Strickland had made Ohio “uncompetitive” to attract businesses due to high taxes.  But Governor Strickland didn’t raise taxes at all.  In fact, personal income taxes were cut 24% during his term.  However, Governor Kasich has actually RAISED both the sales tax and the commercial activities tax that businesses pay in his last budget.  Yet another example of how Kasich lied to win in 2010.  It is amazing how Kasich has not faced any media criticism, and I mean ANY, on how what he said and promised in 2010 is vastly different than what he’s done as Governor.  Now, he’s even asking voters to judge him on the economy differently than he demanded they judge Strickland in 2010.

Had voters in 2010 learned before, and not after, the election that Ohio’s unemployment rate was lower than the national rate, I believe Governor Strickland could have been re-elected.  On the other hand, it became clear that despite all the available evidence that the economy in Ohio had recovered quite quickly and strongly, I believe voters could not shape their view of the economy that had formed in 2009 at the height of the recession.  It’s essentially how Bill Clinton got elected President in the first place.  The nation was already in a recovery in 1992, but President George H.W. Bush never could convince voters that the nation was on the right track economically because voters still viewed the economy under the lens of the 1991 recession.  The same thing probably occurred with Strickland in 2010.

If that’s true, then unless there is a marked change in current trends, Gov. Kasich could find himself running for re-election on a referendum on the state of the economy in 2013, and not on just how many jobs have been created while he’s been Governor, especially when most were created so early in his term.  If voters view the economy as they did with Bush I and Strickland based on how it did a year before the election, this is a horrible time to see Ohio’s unemployment rate go up .5% so far this year to a nine-month high and have the State ranked 47th in job growth over the past twelve-month period.  So, you can’t blame Nichols from wanting to move the goal posts.  The problem for Kasich is no incumbent administration has ever succeeded in doing so.